by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024

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Got a War? Dial 1-800-MERCENARY

This is a clever take:

Considering all the flak that President Bush has endured for ordering 20,000 more troops to Baghdad, it’s a wonder that he didn’t just pick up the phone and dial 1-800-MERCENARY.

Jon D. Markman on TheStreet.com reiterates what private military pundits and observers already know: “Independent companies are now the third-largest contributor of forces to Iraq, after regular American and British troops.”
And since Markman works for a handy investment and financial Web site, his advice is buy. “You’ve now got a chance to make a few bucks off the men and women who actually shoot to kill. It’s a capitalist version of 24, without the commercial breaks.”
Markman predicts DynCorp’s future as especially rosy and he’s keen on the name: “It’s like giving the name Spot to a vicious Doberman, or meeting a mobster with the name John Smith.”
Think about it: this could be an endorsement for investing in the mob and Doberman kennels as well. (….Maybe I think too much…. )
L-3 looks riskier. The company’s recently-acquired Titan division lost a multi-billion-dollar linguistics contract to DynCorp. Besides, Baghdad is not exactly a safe work environment: Titan has reportedly lost 216 employees in the war “so far.”
We’re talking dead here — not employees simply having a hard time finding their way around town. So, DynCorp workers may not have come out on the winning end of things with this new contract either.
L-3’s Titan translators have the task of going out on midnight Army raids breaking down doors and ransacking homes in search of insurgents and other troublemakers. Titan people are among those who regularly carry side arms — authorized or not.
An excellent series in The San Diego Union-Tribune explained the job thusly:

Titan employees say they worked in a land of chaos and lawlessness, where company rules were often vague and employees were sometimes left to fend for themselves….They complained of flak vests that lacked body armor, satellite phones that never worked and unsafe vehicles.

The company also worked Abu Ghraib during the time when torture and humiliation were routine — and yes, Titan employees were present. They were supposedly under investigation by the Justice Department, but time marches on.
Markman says there are 20,000 gun-toting private contractors doing security work on the ground in Iraq. Actually, the number is more like 25,000 to 35,000, according to Tim Spicer, the British overlord of all private security companies operating in Iraq. That’s not counting the other gun toters — from interpreters to civilian and military advisers. Then of course, there are those who are unauthorized to carry arms but do anyway.

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